Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Predators (2010, Nimród Antal)

Predators ( + Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]The fact that Robert Rodriguez's original draft of Predators has been floating around since 1994, only to be rewritten by Michael Finch and Alex Litvak (previously responsible for nothing), should have been the first red flag in a project that reads like a first-draft of a high-concept.  It's a reboot that venerates its monsters without understanding them: a meta film of smarmy dialogue that winks at its audience without saying anything.

Seeking to canonize itself in the Predator legacy, Predators ignores Predator 2, claiming to be the true sequel, but most closely resembles the inane Alien Vs. Predator franchise.  It's a film that fails to recognize that the anchoring themes of the original were solitude and the emptiness of war.  Now, we are given a team of eight mostly-indistinguishable characters (outside of race and nationality, though they all curiously speak English) and the violence is shallow gore-porn (the kind of cliché we've grown so accustomed to in these pictures it has no resonance or memory).
Spoiler alert.

Instead, the plot is driven by the whims of the fanboy architects behind the project.  Gaping holes in logic?  No problem because, wait, wouldn't it be cool if Predator had a dog and fought a samurai?  The army of humans are parachuted in from spacecraft to a foreign rainforest on a distant planet.  We learn that Predators are hand-selecting humans on earth to abduct and plant on this Most Dangerous Game training planet.  Our team stays together even though they are of no help to one another (undermining the message of the film) and any depth the film offers only suggests that we can all be monsters, but we have the choice to help our fellow (wo)man.

Splice EvLOLution
The ride involves inexplicable twists and betrayals that serve to give motion to a destinationless picture.  We're supposed to believe Arien Brody is a black ops lone wolf, but his action appeal toes the line much closer to Shia LaBeouf than Schwarzenegger.  I mean, this is the guy with the Auschwitz frame in The Pianist and the lab-geek in the witty t-shirts in Splice.  I love Brody and everything, but the idea that he and Topher Grace are earth's most insidious, mechanized killers is a little hard to swallow.

Predators suffers most from misunderstanding its source material in the worst possible way.  It's a hunt with no stakes, a labyrinth with no escape and an enemy with no dread.  The predators in the film are less menacing than Jason in the most humorous Friday the 13th Part VII - The New Blood (yet unlike this point in the Friday the 13th series, Predators's confused tone would have us root for wicked-cool Predator and humanity).  I mean, they have lasers that can blow you to bits from across the forest, so I'm not sure where the competitive spirit comes into play.  I understood Predators to value honor, but here they also pick off the easy targets over audience guffaws.  What a misread by the producers that the same minor demographic that would pick nits over Predators' compromised integrity is the same group they targeting.

Basically, Predators is dumb and unnecessary.  It is difficult to see what its makers loved about the franchise in the first place.  It whiffs at any attempt at social commentary, though it is obvious five minutes in that this was back-burner material to start with.  Predators has the feel of a bad video game movie in that there is no arc surrounding its cyclical premise.  Compare it to Machete (ties with both Rodriguez and Danny Trejo), a movie that is also dumb-- relishes in being dumb-- but manages to be highly enjoyable because it goes the short distance to thematic relevance.  I'm not begging for subtlety or nuance (Rodriguez is likely incapable of either), just some small ort to gnaw. -- *½ / four stars


  1. Did this movie misunderstand it's source more than American Psycho 2 did?

  2. To be fair, I don't think American Psycho 2 was intended to be a sequel, or affiliated to the first film at all. Also, it was direct to video and didn't have a $40 million budget.